Book Notice: “Venture All for God” by Phil A. Newton

SEBTS student Phil Newton is on a publishing binge, having recently published his third book in the past several years, a book on John Bunyan. Although Bunyan (1628-1688) is a very familiar name to many Christians for one classic work: The Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan’s other devotional and theological writings are often neglected. This lacunae in knowledge about Bunyan’s theology and spirituality is addressed in Venture All for God: Piety in the Writings of John Bunyan (Reformation Heritage Books, 2011) co-edited by SEBTS student Phil Newton and Roger Duke (Union University).

The aim of this book is to pry inside the motivations of the man who gave us The Pilgrim’s Progress. As such, a 54-page biographical essay, which includes the main aspects of Bunyan’s piety, is followed by selections from Bunyan’s other writings. Thirty-one excerpts from works such as Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate, The Jerusalem Sinner Saved, The Acceptable Sacrifice, and his sermons and letters provide a rich sampling of Bunyan’s theological and devotional emphases. These excerpts are organized by seven sections: 1. Christ Our Advocate; 2. Christ Jesus the Merciful Savior; 3. Hope for Sinners; 4. True Humility; 5. Christian Ethics; 6. The Gospel Applied; and 7. Warnings.

Within these sections, the excerpts are given in short chapters which make excellent material for devotional reading. For example, chapter 3, “Things Related to the Promises of Christ Our Advocate” excerpted from The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate, begins:

There are many things relating to the promises, as to the largeness and narrowness of words, as to the freeness and conditionality of them, that we are not able so well to understand, and, therefore, when Satan deals with us about them, we quickly fall to the ground before him. We often conclude that the words of the promise are too narrow and rigid to comprehend; we also truly think that the conditions of some promises do utterly shut us out from hope of justification and life. But our Advocate, who is for us with the Father, He is better acquainted with and learned in this law than to be baffled out with a bold word or two or with a subtle piece of hellish sophistication (Isa. 50:4). He knows the true purport, intent, meaning, and sense of every promise and piece of promise that is in the whole Bible. He can tell how to plead it for advantage against our accuser, and He does so (p. 67).

Phil Newton is Senior Pastor of South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and a SEBTS Ph.D. student in Applied Theology, Christian Missions with a concentration in North American Missiology. He and Dr. Duke have done us a great service by brining Bunyan’s other writings to the attention of pastors, students, teachers and any Christian seeking to grow in the knowledge of grace and truth. This book is therefore recommended for those in any of these groups.